Ms. Tree Quarterly Number 1 with Kate (and Dan)

::We open our scene at The Asylum in St. Paul. It’s night. It’s always night in St. Paul. Light shines from a lone reading lamp in the corner. The ceiling fan slowly turns overhead, sending a warm breeze across the stack of funny books on the table.::

D: You…you look different, Red.

K: ::purrs:: Do I?

D: Yeah. You do.

::Kate is wearing a black Betty Page wig, blouse cut down to there, and a skirt cut up to there. She’s standing in the doorway with light from the lone reading lamp casting dangerous shadows from her dangerous curves. This lady means business. And her business… IS DEATH.:: (Actually, she’s a business analyst for a nationwide lab, but that’s not important right now.)

K: Well, you better get used to the new me, Slim, ‘cause the old me is long gone. And the new me is here to stay.

D: My nickname is “Smalls.”

K: ::pulls a pistol from IDontKnowWhere::  Your name is whatever I say it is!

D: ::wets pants:: I can get used to “Slim.”

K: Here’s the deal. Here’s how it’s going to be. Here’s the situation. Here’s the… well, here it is. I’ve been reading your comics. Your pulp mags. Watching your movies. And they’re all the same. The girl is always the plot device. She’s dressing for the hero. She’s there to motivate the guy. She’s the hero’s reward. Or she gets stuffed in a refrigerator. Whatever, it’s all the same.

I’m not going to put up with it anymore! I’m here to chew ass and kick names…wait, that’s not right… I’m here to…do some stuff and then something else! This week we read the comic I choose. Read a book about a dame that doesn’t mess around. We’re going to read about my new role model, Ms. Tree.

::Tosses MS. TREE QUARTERLY No.1 onto the desk:: And you’re not gonna give me any guff, Bub!

D: Bub? I thought my new nickname was “Slim”? Hey, wait a minute, that’s MY book! I tracked that down! You’re being tough with me about reading my own book? I think your wig might be a little tight.

K: Zip it, pal. Since this is “your” book, then you know that Ms. Michael Tree is the no nonsense private eye with her own agency, Ms. Tree Investigations. Her husband, Michael, was also a private dick, but he was killed in the line of duty. Now she’s raising his son, her stepson, Michael. It’s very confusing with all of the Michaels.

D: If Mike Hammer had married his secretary, Velda, and Mike was killed on their honeymoon, then Velda would become Ms. Tree. She is a tough talking, take no guff from anyone private eye. In this book, Ms. Tree’s rival, Dominique Muerta, breaks a long-standing truce between the two.

K: And she does it to offer to Ms. Tree a job as head of security for Muerta Enterprises International! Ms. Tree takes the job after Muerta turns up dead. She finds that not everything inside the Muerta organization is on the up and up.

D: So much pulpy-goodness!! Mobsters dealing in illegal activities. Double crossing family members. Chicks with guns!

K: ::Crosses legs. Again pointing out that the skirt is indeed cut “up to there.”:: Perfect example. So many of your funny books are little more than four-color fanboy fantasies. Sexy bad girls dressing sexy and doing sexy things with guns. That ain’t Ms. Tree. Ms. Tree is a professional P.I. who dresses sensibly and runs her own business. She doesn’t start trouble. But she sure as hell will finish it.

D: Another point of order: Ms. Tree isn’t a super-hero. Comics have been around since the last World War. It is now the 21st century, and people still think that comics are only about super-heroes. This is a straight-up crime story dealing in corporate intrigue and almost literal backstabbing. No capes or heat vision in sight.

K: During Ms. Tree’s publication run at Eclipse Comics, Aardvark-Vanaheim, Renegade Press, and then DC Comics, Ms. Tree has always dealt in real world issues. Abortion, mental illness, and corporate intrigue were just the tip of the iceberg for this lady. When your creator is acclaimed mystery author Max Allan Collins, you’d expect no less.

D: Collins and artist/co-creator Terry Beatty really took the road less traveled with their creation. A love letter to the P.I. genre, each issue is a true gem. And, can we just point out one more thing?

K: Hurry up, Slim. These heels are killing me.

D: While Beatty did all the covers and interiors while Ms. Tree was at the other three publishers, the DC run had acclaimed guest cover artists. The cover to MS. TREE QUARTERLY No.1 was done by Mike Grell (yet another Mike!) and is one of my favorite comic book covers of all time. It’s an amazing example of pin up art that gives us a sexy look at a tough and deadly dame. YOWZA!

K: Are we done now?

D: Yup.

K: Good! ::stands on one foot to take off shoe. Loses balance. Topples down stairs. Counts chirping bullets circling her head:: Being a tough broad is tough. Where are my pajama pants?